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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: February 7, 2023 4:46 pm PDT
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BY KEVIN KERNAN

Today’s question is a simple one.

How can one of the richest teams in baseball be caught so short and not have a shortstop with just about a month to go before the start of spring training?

It really boggles the baseball mind.

And this team, the Red Sox, ended last season with home grown star Xander Bogaerts at shortstop but then let him get away to the Padres as a free agent.

Blame Chaim Bloom, Chief Baseball Officer and Chief Nerd of the Red Sox.

I’ve been pounding on Bloom since his start in Boston, but every year seems to get worse – much like the bullpens he builds.

Bloom hedged his losing Bogaerts bet by signing Trevor Story to a six-year, $140 million contract last year but everyone in baseball, certainly all the scouts, knew that Story’s arm was in decline; but still Bloom signed him. Story became a priority, not Bogaerts.

You didn’t even have to be a scout to see the arm issues with Story, you just had to watch him lollipop the ball to first base. The Red Sox waited until Story had to ramp up his offseason throwing as he moved from second to short to even realize he was hurt and now he is out of action.

To top it off, when it was known Story was going to have surgery on his throwing elbow, shortstop Carlos Correa was again briefly on the open market in one of the funnier Scott Boras escapades in quite some time, but the Red Sox did not make an 11th hour pitch to Correa.

Bloom made it sound like it is going to get worse for the AL East last-place Red Sox before it gets better when he said, “We’ve taken a couple of haymakers. We’ll probably take a couple more.’’

Correa soon was signed back to the Twins to a six-year deal for $200 million.

The Red Sox could have kept Bogaerts around, they could have plugged the obvious shortstop hole by signing Correa, who failed physicals with both the Giants and the Mets but passed the Twins physical with flying colors. I can see the Red Sox being afraid to sign Correa – especially after the whiff on Story – but the Red Sox should have never been in this position to begin with and that is bad planning and execution of a plan.

Oh yeah, they could have filled the hole with Jeter Downs, but he was DFA’d, making Chaim Bloom’s Mookie Betts trade one of the worst trades of all time. In trading Betts, a perennial All-Star, the Red Sox wound up with Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong and Downs.

How can all this happen to the Red Sox?

The answer is simple and anyone who has been following along here at Baseball or Bust knows that I constantly say one of the biggest problems with baseball is the Nerds think anyone can play anywhere -and Bloom is a walking billboard for that type of thinking.

He simply can’t judge talent. Perhaps the Rays let Bloom go to a division rival because they knew he could not judge talent.

What is especially annoying for Red Sox fans is that once again this upcoming season shortstop is the most important of positions because Rob Manfred has banned the shift, meaning a shortstop actually has to play shortstop while a second baseman has to play second base.

You have to be strong up the middle. It’s called baseball.

With all this going on I had to watch the Red Sox press conference on NESN Wednesday to “celebrate’’ the signing of Rafael Devers to a 10-year, $313.5 million extension and I got to hear these words from Bloom, directed at loyal Red Sox fans: “Loving your favorite team is not always easy.’’

Cue the theme from Love Story.

Scott Boras and Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts #2 of the San Diego Padres and Agent Scott Boras addresses the media at his introductory press conference at PETCO Park on December 9, 2022 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

Love and baseball means never having to say you’re sorry.

Loving your favorite team certainly is not always easy with Chaim Bloom in charge.

This was such a momentous day that Red Sox owner John Henry could not even come to the press conference. Fellow owner Tom Werner said of Henry, “John had a conflict today.’’ Perhaps Mr. Henry is still upset over being booed at the Winter Classic at Fenway.

That can cause a conflict. Owners don’t like to be booed.

Werner was left to defend this Bloom-doggle the Red Sox have created and offered this comment: “Chaim has a clear plan … to win another World Series.’’

Really? Hopefully that plan includes a real shortstop.

Kiké Hernandez can move to short but then the Red Sox are missing a centerfielder. Perhaps the Red Sox can get Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Yankees or make a pickup somewhere else across baseball to plug this momentous hole.

Bloom made it sound like it is going to get worse for the AL East last-place Red Sox before it gets better when he said, “We’ve taken a couple of haymakers. We’ll probably take a couple more.’’

These haymakers have been well earned by the Red Sox.

These are such weird times in Boston, and really, the entirety of MLB.

Essentially, Devers said he signed back with the Red Sox because he doesn’t want to deal with the pitfalls of free agency. You can’t blame him. To stay in his home organization and have $313.5 million added to the bank account is a comfortable way to live and all he had to do was look at the Carlos Correa free agent saga to ultimately decide: “You know what, I’ll stay home in Boston. Pay me.’’

The Red Sox had to keep Devers, just as the Yankees had to keep Aaron Judge. Judge made it to free agency and played the free agent card to perfection after his 62 home run season but once Judge saw what was out there and the confusion that is the San Francisco Giants organization, he was staying home as well.

Devers at press conference speaking at podium

Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox speaks during a press conference announcing his contract extension with the Boston Red Sox on January 11, 2023 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Sure, the Padres made a strange (even for the Padres) desperate, last-second offer for Judge that made little sense.

This was a no-brainer for Judge and the Yankees. Pretty similar for the decade extension to Devers. Even Chaim Bloom couldn’t mess up the Devers’ extension.

“He’s not just a star, he’s our star,’’ Bloom said of Devers, who was signed by the Red Sox in 2013 when Ben Cherington was the GM. That was the year the Red Sox beat the Cardinals in six games to win the World Series. They have won four World Series since 2004 so this right now really is the worst of times for a generation of Red Sox fans.

Bogaerts was their star too.

Red Sox fans are truly seeing what life is like on the other side again and it’s not pretty.

In his six seasons Devers is batting .283 with a .342 on-base percentage and a .512 slugging percentage. Since 2019 the third baseman is hitting .292 with a .352 on base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage and owns 264 extra base hits.

As for Correa, what a long, strange free agent trip this has been with him finally signing and passing a physical with the Twins, a contract that is good for six years and $200 million. He just loves Minnesota this month after opting out from the Twins.

Essentially that is similar money to what the Astros offered Correa when he became a free agent last year, five years at $160 million. Then he signed with the Twins. Now Correa is back “home’’ with the Twins. Good for the Twins, but let’s not forget that nine teams in the American League finished with a better or same record than the 78-84 Twins in 2022 with Correa at shortstop for Minnesota, including the Red Sox.

The Twins have to find a way to keep Correa and super-talented centerfielder Byron Buxton healthy. For Buxton, who had a slew of injuries in 2022 that caused him to miss 101 games, he has to alter his style of play so he does not prove to be so fragile. Correa can certainly help with guidance in that department and there has to be awareness on the field to make sure you stay on the field.

Carlos Correa laughing in the dugout

When all was said and done, Carlos Correa landed right back in Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Overall, what a saga for Correa and Boras that ended with Wednesday’s press conference.

First, Correa signed a 13-year deal with the Giants for $350 million. That was after Judge turned down the Giants. Then because Correa failed the Giants physical it was onto Steve Cohen and the Mets for 12 years and $315 million to play third base. Looked like a smart but expensive deal for the Mets at the time, pairing Correa and his good friend Francisco Lindor at short and Correa at third.

That is strength and strength.

Correa failed the Mets physical and had to go to Plan C and landed back with the Twins. If you are keeping score at home that is $865 million handed out to Correa in contracts this off-season (yes, baseball owners have plenty of cash) before the doctors stepped in and questioned Correa’s ankle and long-term ramifications of his staying on the field.

Longtime Minnesota sportswriter and radio host Patrick Reusse, and a friend to AMBS, surmised the move this way in a tweet. “As Twins hands-on orthopedic excellence was praised, no one paused to mention it was 9 months ago Mets said no to Chris Paddack because of recent elbow issues. Twins said ‘yes,’ and Paddack made 5 starts before heading off to 2nd TJ surgery. Could be back in ’24.’’

You never know with injuries and now the Twins have all their eggs (and eggs are super expensive now) in the Correa basket.

For his part, Correa admitted to being blindsided by the bad results from the physicals.

“Very surprising because in 2022, I did three physicals,’’ Correa said. “Going into that (Giants) physical, I felt great. All that led me here, back to the Twins and I could not be more happy.’’

The Mets are now going with Eduardo Escobar, 34, at third base instead of Correa, 28. Correa hit .291 last season while Escobar only hit .240 but the power numbers were similar. Escobar produced 20 home runs and 69 RBI while Correa managed 22 home runs and 64 RBI.

The Mets also have prospect Brett Baty in waiting and, if needed, could make a deal at the trade deadline. This certainly opens the door to a free agent signing of Manny Machado, who can opt out from the Padres after the season. Manny has the mindset that would be right for the Mets.

Shohei Ohtani is a free agent as well, but it does not appear that New York is his cup of tea and I see Ohtani going to the Dodgers.

The Mets will be in the middle of rumors forever because of Steve Cohen’s money and desire to win at nearly any cost and that is a much different situation than up in Boston, where we started this extravaganza.

That Red Sox lineup is not looking too threatening to the Yankees.

It could be this: Masataka Yoshida LF, Kiké Hernandez SS, Rafael Devers 3B, Justin Turner DH, Alex Verdugo RF, Triston Casas 1B, Christian Arroyo 2B, Reese McGuire C, Jarren Duran CF.

Perhaps the plan is to load up on top draft picks, that always seems to be a standard play in the Nerd handbook, but Red Sox fans aren’t Pirates fans. They are not going to enjoy another rotten to the core season. The Red Sox pick 14th in 2023. The Pirates pick No. 1.

Signing Trevor Story was a mistake, he hit only .238 last season and played in only 94 games, and now that mistake has been magnified with Bogaerts leaving town for SoCal and Story having elbow surgery (internal bracing procedure), putting his 2023 season in jeopardy – a surgery Story could have had back in August because those Red Sox were kaput. Bloom insisted that with this elbow injury “surgery wasn’t something we were contemplating at the end of the season.’’

Really?

“What he experienced in this incident was something new.’’

Really?

Once again Chaim Bloom did not connect the baseball dots and Red Sox fans are the big losers. The Bloom has been off the rose since the start.

Bring on the haymakers.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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